8 things you probably don’t know about UW-La Crosse

Beneath The Bluffs: 8 Things You Never Knew About UW-La Crosse

Photo courtesy of La Crosse Aerial Photography via CC BY-SA 4.0.

By Holly Garcia

April 23, 2024

Whether you’re an alum, current student, or member of the community, enjoy these eight fun facts about UW-La Crosse.

Whether you know it as UW-Lax or UW-L, the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse is one of 13 University of Wisconsin campuses. Ranked as a top regional university by US News and World Report, it has an incredible track record of small class sizes, a great athletics department, and a commitment to every student’s experience.

Did you know the university motto is Mens Corpusque, which is Latin for “mind and body?” UW-La Crosse’s approach to students’ holistic wellness on campus is only one of many reasons we love this university. But there are many more facts where that came from!

Fact #1

Although school wouldn’t be in session until 1909 at UW La Crosse, it was founded in 1905. The money used to fund and establish the school came from the La Crosse City Council and a refund that the State of Wisconsin received for Civil War-related expenses. The first section of campus constructed was Old Main a three-story brick building that was applauded as a magnificent structure.

Beneath The Bluffs: 8 Things You Never Knew About UW-La Crosse

Photo courtesy of UWL Campus Connection.

Fact #2

UW-L’s original physical education building opened in 1920. Although construction had begun in 1916, it was delayed because of World War I. Later, it was renamed Wittich Hall after Walter Wittich, a P.E. chairman and advocate for the program. In 1985, Wittich Hall was registered as a Historic Building.

Fact #3

Hanging the lantern at Graff Main Hall every homecoming symbolized the sentiment to new and returning students and alumni that they’re always welcome ‘home’ at UW-L. This tradition began in 1931 when English teacher Orris O. White said, “We’ll hang the lantern in the old college tower … You won’t need to look for the key — the door will be open.

The lantern was hung in Graff Main Hall until 1997 when it was moved to Hoeschler Clock Tower.

Fact #4

UW-L was originally named La Crosse Normal School when it opened in 1909. Its purpose was to train teachers for elementary and secondary schools. Today, they offer programs aimed at educators as well as business administration, arts, social sciences, humanities, science, and health.

Fact #5

Speaking of traditions, another unique event every fall is the lighting of the “L”. In 1935, two classmates celebrated the start of school with a massive fire. They bought supplies to light a massive “L” on Miller’s Bluff to welcome students back. Don’t worry these days, UW-L still lights the L, but instead of starting a potentially chaotic fire, an LED L display lights up the hill during Welcome Week.

Beneath The Bluffs: 8 Things You Never Knew About UW-La Crosse

Photo courtesy of UWL Alumni & Friends Foundation.

Fact #6

Since 1959, UW-L has hosted many presidential candidates and even a sitting president. Beginning with Senator John F. Kennedy giving a speech in Grafton Hall in 1959, the campus was also visited by Al Gore in 1988 and Bill Clinton in 2008. Vice President Joe Biden stopped by the campus in 2012, and President Obama visited as a presidential candidate and again when he was a sitting president in 2015.

The presidential visits continue a tradition of a campus that has been very politically active, says Joe Heim, professor emeritus of political science and UW-L’s legislative liaison.

Beneath The Bluffs: 8 Things You Never Knew About UW-La Crosse

Photo courtesy of UWL Campus Connection.

Fact #7

Since 1919, UW-L has invested in its athletics programs, resulting in excelling in track and gymnastics. In fact, for over three decades (since 1990), the school has hosted the WIAA State Track & Field Championships at Roger Harring Stadium.

Coming up in 2026, UW-L will host the 2026 NCAA Division III Outdoor Track & Field Championships. In addition to track and field, UW-L’s gymnastics program has won 15 National Collegiate Gymnastics Association Championships.

Fact #8

UW-L is proud of all its students and alumni, but there are a few notable people you might know.

  • Sandra Lee is a celebrity chef and DIY diva featured on the Food Network.
  • Sharon Weston Broome graduated from UW-La Crosse with a Bachelor’s in communication and was the first woman elected as Mayor-President of Baton Rouge, LA.
  • Bill Schroeder, class of 1993, played football at UW-L and went on to play with the Green Bay Packers, New England Patriots, Detroit Lions, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
  • Don Herbert, class of 1940, better known as Mr.Wizard, was dubbed ‘America’s favorite science teacher’ for 14 years during a long run on NBC’s Watch Mr. Wizard.
  • Craig Krusick, class of 1972, played football and baseball and ran track at UW-L. Later, he played professional baseball for 12 years with the Minnesota Twins, San Diego Padres, and Toronto Blue Jays.


Beneath The Bluffs: 8 Things You Never Knew About UW-La Crosse

Sandra Lee photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

This article first appeared on Good Info News Wire and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.8 things you probably don't know about UW-La Crosse8 things you probably don't know about UW-La Crosse




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